Why a Photo Book?
Narrow Your Theme
The All-Important Cover Photo
The Cover Title
When you think about it, the photography experience is not complete unless others view your images. Merely taking pictures for your own gratification seems a bit selfish or exhibits a lack of self-confidence in one’s ability or fear of what others might say about your efforts. With today’s digital technology and social media, sharing what you’ve shot couldn’t be much easier. Maybe the analog world still has a few lessons to teach us, however, about how to present our photography in a manner that makes a deeper impression than a constant stream of images across the screens of our computers, smartphones and tablets.
One of those lessons is that creating a printed photo book enhances your images and the message you are trying to communicate unlike digitized photos. The “permanence” of a book still holds value in our society (at least for the time being), and by creating one, you’re apt to learn something new about your photography and view it differently. The tips in this PhotographyTalk article should help you organize and produce a photo book project that people will want to see…maybe even buy!
Although a photo book is a creative activity, it must also have a clear purpose, a specific reason for making one. The reason is important because it will help define the parameters of the book, in terms of which images, book size, colors, titling, etc. For many professional photographers, photo books generate a supplementary income stream. A photo book can also be an excellent portfolio presentation. A photo book may help distinguish your photos from the hundreds of images editors or other potential clients stare at all day online. A book, or analog medium, is becoming a unique object for many people, so to some of them, your photo book portfolio could seem like something totally new…and more memorable.
Before you can concern yourself with the particulars of your photo book, you should choose a company to produce the actual book(s) for you. PhotographyTalk highly recommends Viovio at www.viovio.com. Viovio is one of PhotographyTalk’s premier vendor partners, offering a comprehensive selection of online templates to create photo books, calendars, cards, portfolios, scrapbooks, self-published books, instructional manuals and so much more.
To give yourself all the creative freedom possible, it’s important to have your photo book produced at a company with a wide range of sizes, bindery and paper, etc. Viovio is that company because it specializes in photo books, offering hundreds of templates in many themes, plus templates from independent graphic designers. You can then choose from 36 different sizes, from landscape to square to portrait; 6 different bindings, including hardcover, softcover, perfect bound and wire-o matte; and 3 paper stocks: gloss silk and satin.
Now that you know why you are creating a photo book and what company will produce it for you, you can start to narrow your choices of book specifications. If you want a low-cost, but high quality book to send to the friends that joined you on your last vacation, then a smaller size and a paper cover may be sufficient. If your photo book is meant to be a portfolio, then you probably want a larger size and a hard cover. The few extra bucks are worth it when you are trying to land assignments. A wedding photographer, for example, may want to have a number of choices: a larger size to serve as a coffee table book in the couple’s home, a smaller hardcover book as a keepsake for each member of the wedding party and then small hard or paper cover books for family members or friends to purchase. Because you know the purpose for your photo book, you’ll also have an idea which photo you might use, at least in general terms. Factor in that information to help pick the right size book and specifications.
You must start with the premise that a photo book is obviously limited, so your book’s contents must be based on a rather narrow theme. “Vacation photos” is too broad. Even “Vacation 2013” could be narrowed to a particular day, subject or time period. The same approach must be applied to creating a photo book portfolio. Nowhere does the cliché, less is more, ring more true. Don’t just show editors and would-be clients that you can take pictures, but also present them in a cohesive, structured presentation. Few photographers are hired who can’t focus on the specific, rather narrow theme of an assignment. A photo book is an opportunity to prove it.
With all this prior thinking and preparation, choosing the actual images for your photo book should be a somewhat easier process. If you’ve carefully determined a narrow theme for the book, then there should only be an equally narrow range of image choices. In almost every case, a photo book should be trying to communicate an important message other than, “Here’s my 20 best photos ever!” or "Best candid photography photos!". A combination of 20 photos, some excellent, some OK, and some even some poor, that tell an excellent story will often be more impressive than just a hodge-podge of your best work.
Don’t hesitate to ask your photo buddies for their opinion or, maybe better yet, ask a “stranger” in the PhotographyTalk Forum for his or her critique of your choices. He or she is apt to be more objective than a friend.
Think of the images for your photo book like a silent movie. Each image provides a separate message that moves the story from the beginning to the middle to the end. You may pick the right 20 images to tell a fantastic story, but no one will be able to follow it unless you present those images in the correct order. Once again, this is especially critical if you are creating a portfolio, as storytelling is often considered a more important skill, or at least an equally important skill, as composition and operating the camera like Canon 5D Mark IV.
Just when you thought the process of creating a photo book had narrowed to a few choices (selecting the photos and in what order being the most difficult), you’re now faced with the virtually unlimited choices for the page layout. Again, the previous steps will make this step easier. Plus, the Viovio templates are so easy to use that you can explore and experiment with many design combinations during a short period of time. If your photo book is of landscapes, then full-page photos with no border may be the best layout. You want portraits and people pictures to be large enough to recognize those in the photos, but they may be more compelling and interesting as smaller images on a page. If you’re selling wedding photo books, then you probably want to offer an option with multiple images on a page.
Two facing pages don’t necessarily have to contain images, although it’s standard practice to put a single photo on the right page, since it will be seen as soon as the previous page is turned. Just as you had to narrow the theme of your photo book and the number of images to be printed in it, you also want to narrow your page layout choices, so the book will look consistent. You want to focus viewers’ attention on your images and the story they are telling, not a profusion of colored backgrounds, image sizes and shapes, etc.
The purpose of your photo book and the previous steps will help you decide whether to add text to the pages. In most cases, you want to keep it brief, in harmony with the general layout of the book and information that adds to the images and doesn’t explain elements that are easily seen. As a personal gift, a photo book with more text may be appropriate to share memories that the images evoke. As a portfolio, any text should definitely be brief and limited to either shooting specs or a location description that might be pertinent to whomever you are presenting the book, as an example of your work. Generally, use only one font throughout your book, although you can use its variations: bold, italics, bold italics, all-caps, etc…but sparingly.
If you’ve planned carefully and selected an excellent group of images to tell a story in your photo book, then it should be somewhat easy to recognize the one that represents your message, your story, in a single image. Your cover photo should also be technically excellent and an intriguing composition that compels people to want to open the book and see more.
The same process applies to deciding on the cover/book title as for writing text for the photo pages. Try to be brief and write a title that encapsulates the story the photos tell. Remember to establish your design theme with how you layout the cover photo and the title. Viewers feel more welcomed to look inside your photo book when the cover’s design complements the pages.
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